After seeing the ads for this series about a young woman becoming a midwife in 1950’s England, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d happily watch a show about a young woman finding her way in the world, but as a midwife? While that occupation is rewarding, it’s also, well, gross. I had my son almost ten years ago and I still remember how R-rated the experience was. I was not surprised about the warning that preceded the episode, but was happy to notice that the only truly graphic content was the frank language used by the nuns and midwives.
"Midwifery is the stuff of life," states the narrator as the first episode begins. As the story continues, the truth of that statement is shown again and again. Newly trained midwife Jenny Lee thinks she has been assigned to a small hospital in the East End of 1950's London. Instead, she arrived at Nonnatus House, a nursing convent servicing a clientele that shocks Jenny. There are fist-fights between women, dirty homes, non toilet trained children "going" everywhere, and disease. Oh, the disease! Please do not make the mistake I did of Googling whatever disease is being discussed on screen. Sometimes ignorance truly is bliss.
One of Jenny's clients is a woman in her 23rd pregnancy (no, that was not a typo), who has been having babies back to back since she was fourteen. The expectant mother, Conchita, only speaks Spanish, and her husband Len only speaks English. They met while he was serving in the Spanish Civil War; apparently the language of love is all they need. Conchita must be some kind of superwoman, because she still manages to cook for her brood and do household chores after having 25 children (two pregnancies were twins). If I were Conchita, I would be delegating those tasks!
Conchita falls in the garden, giving herself a concussion and going into labor several weeks early; Jenny winds up having to deliver the premature stillborn baby by herself. As she watches Len comfort his wife after the birth and putting her needs above his own grief, Jenny realizes that their love is true and strong and perhaps these people she’s helping will be helping her in return. At this point, we see the assumed stillborn baby’s hands and feet start waving around, and I have to run for the tissues. Not only has he survived his birth, but he also thrives under his mother’s constant care as the weeks go on. Yes, I am still using the tissues.
What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below.